[John Spiri. South Korea: Global Stories Press, 2016, pp. 84 (Includes teacher manual, audio and supplementary materials online). ¥2,100. ISBN: 978-4-905426-42-4.]
Around the World is a content-based English EFL textbook series that introduces students to countries, continent by continent. According to Brinton, Snow, and Wesche (1989), content-based instruction (CBI) can take a thematic focus. Intended for beginner to intermediate level students, this textbook uses the themes of world cultures for its content, and it follows this methodology. As English is often used for introducing different cultures in Japanese education, a textbook based on various cultures around the world is important to build cultural awareness. This textbook features fifteen countries divided into the following six units: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Oceania. One chapter takes about a fifty-minute class once students are accustomed to the format of the textbook.
The first thing that distinguishes this textbook is its utilization of culture, geography, geographical features, and famous people from various countries. This book was trialed in a class of 32 third-year high school students, both English majors and general course majors. So the content of this textbook fit the class objectives of studying various cultures around the world. In the unit featuring South America, I chose the chapter on Brazil.
The unit begins with a map of South America. Students are given a list of the countries in South America and are required to label the map. They also have a fact box of information related to the continent, which they fill out as part of a short reading and listening activity.
The Brazil chapter starts with content-specific vocabulary, introduced through two matching activities. The students first match the new vocabulary to the best definition available. A fill-the-blank activity tests whether they have grasped the meaning of the new vocabulary by asking them to pick the best word to fit the sentence. The activities then proceed toward practicing the productive skills of speaking and writing. Students are given eight pictures associated with Brazilian culture, with a corresponding keyword for each. In pairs, the students brainstorm words to describe the pictures to their partner. Many of my students take the Eiken test and should describe situations depicted in pictures for part of their speaking test. This activity was therefore a good opportunity to practice describing different pictures with a classmate.
The following activity is a dictation, intended to develop students’ listening and writing skills. According to Kiany and Shiramiry (2002), the use of dictation has a positive effect on improving listening comprehension. My students are especially eager to improve their listening abilities, so this was a good challenge for them. The online teachers’ manual also provides instructors with a variety of alternative dictation activities to use. The vocabulary, describing, and dictation activities build towards the final reading section. In this section, a text about a famous person in the target country is followed by comprehension questions. Lastly, there is a map for students to draw and label geographical features of the country.
Students seemed to enjoy filling in the continent map, as that was not something they were accustomed to doing. They also found the speaking activity and the dictation exercises engaging. As this was a mixed level class I had to make pairs in advance, as there were some really low-level students who would have had difficulty otherwise.
The downsides of this textbook were that instructions could be difficult to understand at times. In particular, instructions were not very clear for the last activity of the chapter, which requires drawing a map of the target country. It took too much time to understand what the activities were trying to achieve. The teacher manual, while helpful at times, could be improved by using the textbook pages they refer to, and by adding the comments, thus saving time and eliminating confusion.
Overall, this textbook series is useful as either supplementary or foundational material for an international studies class. It is a good way to introduce students to a continent and its countries. However, the materials are somewhat light, as each chapter is only five pages long. It integrates the four skills and scaffolds activities for students well throughout each chapter, and provides an opportunity to study geography as well. I would recommend it as supplementary material, depending on the nature of the class and how much content the students and teacher would want to cover.
Brinton, D., Snow, M. A., & Wesche, M. B. (1989). Content-based second language instruction. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle Publishers.
Kiany, G. R., & Shiramiry, E. (2002). The effect of frequent dictation on the listening comprehension ability of elementary EFL learners. TESL Canada Journal, 20(1), 57-63.